Flu and Gwynn colide this weekend
An ill-ridden Miami team hosts S.D State
Before the Hurricane baseball team was able to prepare for this weekend’s series against the San Diego State Aztecs, they had to kick a nasty stomach virus that has plagued most of the team this week.
About two/thirds of the team, including head coach Jim Morris, have taken ill causing practices to be cut short early this week.
“I think I’m the one that started it because I got sick last Wednesday,” pitching coach Lazer Collazo said. “Then the whole team got sick but I am hoping that we can field a team for practice.”
Third baseman Gaby Sanchez said that the sudden outbreak of flu-like symptoms may have something to do with food poisoning.
“I got sick and we don’t really know exactly whether or not it was food poisoning,” Sanchez said. “26 players got sick so it has been a tough weekend.”
Now, the ‘Canes will have to deal with a streaking San Diego State team coached by baseball legend Tony Gwynn. After starting off the year 0-4, the Aztecs have won five of their last six games, including a 5-0 upset of 20th ranked South Alabama.
The Hurricanes players and coaches look forward to going up against one of the greatest hitters of all time in this non-conference match up.
“It’s going to be exciting and I just want to meet him,” Sanchez said. “That’s the big thing for me to just shake his hand and say hi, but once the game starts you have to forget about it.”
The Aztecs are led by junior pitcher Mike Moat, who threw eight shutout innings while striking out nine in the win over South Alabama. After that performance, Moat was named Pitcher of the Week in the West Coast Conference.
Gwynn’s son Anthony, an outfielder, has also contributed for the Aztecs at the plate and in the field. When the Aztecs have a lead late in the game, they turn to junior closer Joey Pace, who has been solid in relief this season.
Sanchez feels that the Hurricanes pitching staff can compete with the solid rotation of the Aztecs.
“Our pitching staff is looking good,” Sanchez said. “We should have won the second game against Florida but we didn’t come through when we had players in scoring position. I think later in the season we are going to get a lot better and our pitching staff will be much stronger.”
The ‘Canes are coming off of a competitive series with state rival Florida, where the teams split both games after the third game was rained out on Sunday.
The players were a little disappointed that they didn’t get the chance to win the rubber match against the Gators and earn some bragging rights.
“It did bug us that we didn’t get to play the third game,” Sanchez said. “We wanted to play but our whole team was sick so it would have been tough to win.”
The only possible drawback that comes with playing against a team from the west coast is the unfamiliarity with the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Miami, though, isn’t overly worried about the lack of information.
“I don’t know very much about the team but I do know that they are very well-coached,” sophomore centerfielder Danny Figueroa said. “I know we will get a scouting report soon. It is still early in the week.”
Figueroa has been one of the hottest hitters for the ‘Canes thus far. With Danny batting in the leadoff spot and his brother Paco working out of the ninth spot in the order, the brothers have been able to manufacture runs and move each other along the base paths.
Figueroa hopes to keep up his production this weekend after going 4-4 in the final game of the Campbell series and providing offense in the two Florida games.
“I’m just trying to stay hot right now,” Figueroa said. “My role on the team is to get on base with hits or walks and get the team going. I am pretty happy with my job so far but I have to keep it up.”
Despite the nagging stomach bug and the nonexistent scouting report, the ‘Canes are still very optimistic about their chances of a sweep against the Aztecs.
“We’re very excited about this series and the chance to play against Coach Gwynn’s team,” sophomore outfielder Brian Barton said. “We’ll be up for the challenge.”
Eric Kalis can be reached at email@example.com.